A CARER who stole more than £2,000 from a severely disabled man while he was in hospital having an operation has been spared jail.

Instead Victor Tembo, 32, of Long Road, Canvey, who admitted 11 offences of theft, was given an eight-month jail term suspended for 18 months at Chelmsford Crown Court yesterday.

Tembo stole the cash from quadriplegic Christofell Coetzee who is unable to move his arms, legs or torso.

After gaining access to his credit card, Tembo stole between £100 and £200 on 11 different occasions between October and December, 2005.

Imposing the sentence Judge Anthony Goldstaub told him: “You know you behaved disgracefully, but you’re ashamed for what you did and found comfort in religion and the church.

“You stole from a disabled gentleman who had employed you to look after him.

“You used his card to steal £2,000, although you didn’t need the money at the time.”

Mr Coetzee, of Stansted Mountfitchet, near Braintree, began employing Tembo in August 2005.

When he had to go in to hospital in October he tried to arrange a way he could keep paying Tembo.

Mark Lakin, prosecuting, told the court: “He asked Tembo to collect the debit card and the pin number from his study.

“Tembo claimed it wasn’t there, but used them to effectively steal money – £2,063.

“Mr Coetzee only saw the discrepancies when he looked at his account online.”

Since then he has had to employ new carers, but is now more cautious over his personal belongings, said Mr Lakin.

Although the thefts occurred in 2005, the case was only heard yesterday because papers went missing and the case was twice discontinued.

The suspended sentence means if Tembo is convicted of another offence in the next 18 months he will be given an immediate eight-month jail term.

Richard Boyd, chief executive of Rochford-based charity Disability Essex, said: “This sort of offence is rare, but it’s not unique, sadly.

“The relationship between most carers and the people for whom they work is one of trust, because they are so close.

“When that trust breaks down it’s devastating for the victim.”

Mr Boyd urged people to ask for a criminal record check of prospective carers.

If you have been a victim of a similar case call 0844 4121771.